US study shows direct mail growing as source for online donations

publication date: Jul 4, 2012
Donors are more than three times likelier to give online in response to a direct-mail appeal than an e-appeal, according to a new US study from Dunham+Company. The study, conducted by research firm Campbell Rinker, found that 17% of donors who gave on a charity website in 2011 said that a direct-mail letter prompted their online gift. Just 5% said they gave online because of an e-mail.

In a study conducted for Dunham+Company in October 2010, the ratio was slightly more than two to one. 

"We conducted this survey because we wanted to see if direct mail was diminishing as a source for online donations, and if so, what was driving the increase in online giving," said company president Rick Dunham. "Finding that direct mail has actually grown as a driver to online donations and that online efforts were not really moving the needle was a bit of a shock." 

Actions, preferences both favour direct mail

In addition, 50% of donors surveyed in 2012 said they prefer to give online when they receive a letter in the mail from a charity. In 2010, only 38% said they preferred to give online after getting a letter. 

The proportion of donors ages 40-59 who reported giving online in response to direct mail rose to 47% in 2012 from 34% in 2010. Among donors age 60 or older, online giving prompted by a direct mail appeal rose from 18% in 2010 to 24% in 2012. 

Fifty-three percent of donors in households earning $75,000 or more preferred to respond online to a direct mail appeal, a jump from 42% in 2010. The same is true for 52% of women, up from 39% in 2010. 

Websites, email losing influence on giving 

Interestingly, websites lost ground in driving online giving: Only 11% of donors said what they saw on a charity's website motivated a gift, down from 15% in 2010. In addition, email may be driving fewer donors to give online: only 5% of respondents now say they gave an online gift as the result of an e-mail, compared to 6% in 2010. 

Social media influence on under-40s growing 

Social media shows a very small improvement in motivating an online gift among donors 40 years old or older (10% in this survey; 8% in 2010). However, social media giving continues to grow among donors under age 40: 30% now say they have given online because of social media compared to 24% in 2010. 

"Charities need to be very circumspect about where they put their fundraising dollars," Dunham continued. "It's clear that it's a mistake to reduce offline communications thinking the online activity is what is driving online giving. This is especially important considering the way the core donor demographic of 40 and older is responding online when receiving offline communications." 

The most recent study was part of a Campbell Rinker Donor Confidence Survey conducted April 22-28, 2012 online among 494 adult donors who gave at least $20 in 2011. The 2010 and 2012 results were weighted by age to reflect the general U.S. population. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.4 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. For more information, visit

Like this article?  Join our mailing list for more great information!

Copyright © 2011-Current, The Hilborn Group Ltd. All rights reserved.

Free Fundraising Newsletter
Join Our Mailing List